Development Group Still Eyeing Downtown Derby

File Photo A developer intending to build in the Derby downtown redevelopment zone has a deal with the owner of the former Lifetouch property.

Those were the words last month of Karl Nilsen, a consultant from Derby working with Downtown Derby, LLC, the group looking to launch a mixed use (commercial and residential project) along Factory Street in the long-stagnant downtown redevelopment zone.

Nilsen didn’t go into details about the nature of the deal, and property records in Derby City Hall show the former Lifetouch property is still owned by J & L Enterprise LLC, which has has been the case since 2007.

But if Downtown Derby LLC is purchasing the old Lifetouch building and land, it’s an important component in any project because it fronts Main Street (Route 34), and extends the LLC’s holdings in the redevelopment zone.

Last April the Derby Downtown group announced preliminary plans for a mixed-use development that included some 300 apartments in the area of the old Housatonic Lumber.

In October the city’s planning and zoning commission approved a planned development district for the redevelopment zone where the group wants to build, a move that gives the group and the city commission some wiggle room with planning regulations.

The next step calls for the group to submit a site plan for the planning and zoning commission to review. That plan will include specific details about the project, from square footage to parking spaces.

Taking awhile to submit a site plan application is not unusual — especially in the downtown redevelopment zone, the area in Derby between Main Street and the Housatonic River.

But Nilsen said last month that the paperwork is coming.

“We are trying desperately to get an application in here at your February meeting or the next month after that,” he said.

Andrew Baklik, Mayor Rich Dziekan’s chief of staff, said in an email he did not believe the building department was in receipt of an application as of Tuesday afternoon.

Baklik said the developers are likely shooting for the March commission meeting.

The Valley Indy reached out to two consultants connected to the project but did not hear back.

The next planning and zoning commission meeting is Feb. 19. Even if the downtown project doesn’t make it to the table, the commission’s agenda will likely be packed.

The Hops Co. is returning to the commission to get approvals for changes the owner wants to make to the popular beer garden off Sodom Lane. The business had previously hoped to do a more ambitious rehab of the property, but it is constrained by the fact it is a grandfathered use in a residential zone.

The new plan is scaled back and allowable, according to the property owner’s lawyer.

Also, commission member Steven A. Jalowiec asked last month whether the panel could receive updates on projects underway or previously approved in Derby, to which chairman Ted Estwan agreed.

Jalowiec used the Big Y project as an example. The grocery store purchased the former Walmart on New Haven Avenue, but no one’s heard much lately about when the store will actually open.

That prompted building official Carlo Sarmiento to say that work is underway. Estwan said Big Y has pulled all necessary permits. The opening is now slated for the fall of 2019 instead of this spring, he said.

Sarmiento said the Big Y project was delayed because of work that needs to be done on the property’s parking lot.

Estwan asked if there’s been word on other business moving into the old Walmart Plaza other than Big Y and “maybe a restaurant.”

Sarmiento mentioned a Chinese food restaurant, then said the plaza owners want to move the CVS currently in the shopping center to another spot.

Sarmiento also said that Bar None, a restaurant that closed it doors some months ago on Elizabeth Street, has a new tenant that plans to open a family-style restaurant with comedy nights. Sherman’s Taphouse on Main Street, which closed after only a year in business, also has a new possible tenant, Sarmiento said, an Italian restaurant.